Big Ben is to be stopped while the tower that houses it undergoes repairs costing £29m and lasting three years.

Parliamentary authorities say Britain’s most famous clock will be halted for “several months” to allow repair work to take place, but its chimes may be stopped for longer.

The Elizabeth Tower, the building that contains Big Ben, is “suffering problems” associated with its age, according to the House of Commons authorities.

Extensive conservation work was last carried out on the 160-year-old tower more than 30 years ago and it is now seeing issues “common in buildings of a similar age”.

Work will begin on the tower in early 2017 and experts say in order to maintain the clock’s accuracy, the pendulum will be removed at some point within the three-year period so repairs can take place.

Big Ben stopped for repairs

Experts say the clock mechanism needs urgent repairs. Pic: Jessica Taylor

A House of Commons spokeswoman said: “The clock mechanism will need to be stopped for several months in order to carry out essential maintenance.

“During this period there will be no chimes.

“We are also investigating whether or not the chiming will have an effect on operatives working at high level, which will need to be taken into consideration.

“Striking and tolling will be maintained for important events.”

The spokeswoman told Sky News: “The clock mechanism will be stopped at times within the three-year duration.

“We are looking at potential options to keep this as short as possible.

“Planning is still in progress and timeframes are yet to be determined.”

A statement released by Parliamentary authorities said the tower itself is structurally sound, but many other works were required.

Scaffolding will be erected on the 96-metre high tower but at least one clockface will remain visible at all times.

Work is also being carried out to improve health and safety and fire prevention measures for staff and visitors within the tower, as required by current legislation.

The tower is visited by 12,000 people every year and the Commons’ authorities said tours, which must be booked six months in advance, will be suspended from December 2016.

Tom Brake MP, spokesperson for the House of Commons Commission, said: “The Elizabeth Tower is a symbol of the UK’s democratic heritage and forms part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

“We have a duty to ensure that it is safeguarded for future generations to appreciate.

“While these works are much needed in the short-term, they will also ensure the long-term future and sustainability of Big Ben.”